Fernando Zóbel de Ayala Archive

(Manila, Philippines, 1924 – Roma, Italy, 1984)

Date added: 1980

In 1980 the artist Fernando Zóbel (Manila, 1924–Roma, 1984) donated to Fundación Juan March a collection of documents that are crucial for understanding his work and for the study of Spanish abstract art: the collection of the art works he owned exhibited at the Museo de Arte Abstracto Español de Cuenca, his notebooks and diaries, photographic archive and his library.

Fernando Zóbel de Ayala

Description of the archive

Identification details

Reference code: ES-28006-BFJM/BFZ

Title/Name: Fernando Zóbel Archive

Dates: 1950-1984

Citation format: Fernando Zóbel Archive (Museo de Arte Abstracto Español, Cuenca)

Description level: Collection


Archival history: The Fernando Zóbel Archive was created during the lifetime of Fernando Zóbel and remained at the Museo de Arte Abstracto Español in Cuenca throughout this time before the museum was donated to the Fundación Juan March in 1980.

Institutional history/biographical summary: Fernando Zóbel de Ayala (Manila, Philippines, 1924 – Rome, Italy, 1984), painter. He was born in the Philippines, where his family had business interests, although they were originally Spanish. He studied in Madrid before taking up medical studies in the Philippines. In 1946 he entered Harvard University to study philosophy, literature and art and graduated in 1949. He worked as a bibliographic researcher in the library at Harvard. He returned to the Philippines to take over the family businesses and between 1954 and 1956 he travelled to the USA and Europe where he met various abstract painters, leading him to abandon his figurative painting and adopt an abstract style. In 1961 he moved to Madrid and subsequently to Cuenca, keeping up his friendship with Spanish artists such as Gerardo Rueda, Luis Feito and Gustavo Torner. He founded the Museo de Arte Abstracto Español with them in Cuenca, which opened in 1966 in the privileged location of the Casas Colgadas, where he was director until his death in 1984. Cuenca and the Júcar river were a constant source of inspiration for his work. In 1980 he donated the museum to the Fundación Juan March, which has added to the collection and taken responsibility for maintaining it since then. Fernando Zóbel took part in numerous group and solo exhibitions from 1953 onwards, mainly in Spanish cities, but also in the Philippines, Great Britain, France and the USA. His work can be found in major museums around the world.

Manner of acquisition: DONATION

Content and Structure

Scope and Content: The personal library contains more than 2,000 books. Although they are mostly published post-1950, there are around 200 earlier monographic works from the 19th century and the first half of the 20th century, including two publications dated 1626 and 1768. The central theme is history of art, painting, drawing and pictorial and impressionistic techniques. However, there are numerous monographic works on artists and a section on oriental art, especially from China, India and Japan. A section on poetry, mainly English language, is also worth noting.

Evaluation, selection, removal: Given their historical interest, all the documents are to be preserved permanently, in accordance with Law 16/1985 of 25 June on Spanish Historical Heritage.

Conditions Governing Access and Use

Conditions governing access: Access to the documents is restricted.

Conditions governing reproduction: Reproduction is permitted for study and research purposes only.

Language/script(s) of the documents: The main languages are English and Spanish.

Physical characteristics and technical requirements: The collection has needed to be cleaned, and in some cases be repaired, in order to its better conservation and preservation.

Notes and Control

Notes:The collection can only be viewed in the reading room. The collection is partially digitized.

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